CBS, meanwhile, dominated Saturday by replacing the canceled "Citizen Baines" with a repeat of "CSI," and Fox similarly improved its Friday standing by rebroadcasting the first episode of "24" in the hour usually occupied by the struggling "Pasadena." Fox also showed nice gains on Thursday with its new lineup.
There was virtually no good news for ABC, though, as the network finished fourth on both Thursday and Friday and third on Saturday.
According to Nielsen, NBC captured Thursday and Friday in adults 18-49 for the seventh time in as many weeks this season and also prevailed in total viewers, led by dominant performances by Thursday's "Friends" (24.24 million, 12.1 rating/30 share in adults 18-49) and "ER" (26.85 million, 13.1/33) and Friday's "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (preliminary 16.1 million, 5.5/17).
On Thursday, NBC topped second-place CBS by 51% in adults 18-49 (11.2/27 vs. 7.4/18) and 3.1 million viewers overall. Friday's victory, according to preliminary Nielsens, is by about 20% over second-place Fox in the demo (4.2/13 vs. 3.5/11) and by about 6 million viewers over runner-up CBS in overall audience (13.8 million vs. 7.7 million).
NBC was basically flat vs. last year on Thursday and up by 8% on Friday.
Through Thursday, the last night for which national ratings are available, NBC (5.7/14) had moved to within striking distance of Fox (6.5/16) for the sweep's 18-49 lead. Fox continued to lead in total viewers, as well, leading second-place CBS by about 2 million (16.9 million to 14.9 million).
NBC is still struggling on Saturdays with its movies, though, as even the firstrun "Shakespeare in Love" (preliminary 5.4 million, 2/0/6) finished fourth.
CBS won the night with ease, including its first Saturday 18-49 triumph (preliminary 3.3/10) without sports since December 1999.
"Touched by an Angel" topped its hour with season highs in total viewers (preliminary 10.6 million) and 18-49 (2.9/10) and a late-add repeat of "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (preliminary 10.9 million, 3.2/10) did 45% better in the demo than the season high for "Citizen Baines" in the hour (2.2 rating). That boosted 10 p.m's "The District" (preliminary 13.6 million, 3.7/11) to easily its best numbers of the season.
"CSI's" impressive Saturday score came just two nights after it hit another all-time high in total viewers (25.10 million). CBS also received best-since-premiere numbers for "Survivor: Africa" (20.55 million, 8.3/20 in adults 18-49) and the highest demo score of the season for new drama "The Agency" (4.5/11).
"The Ellen Show" hit Friday highs (preliminary 7.1 million, 2.6/8 in 18-49) but still lost a good chunk of its strong lead-in from a "Funny Flubs" special (preliminary 8.7 million, 2.9/10 in adults 18-49).
At Fox, the season premiere of "Family Guy" (5.28 million, 2.6/6 in adults 18-49) and new comedy "The Tick" (6.75 million, 3.3/8 in 18-49) grabbed some of the network's best young-male demos with series in Thursday's tough 8 p.m. hour in more than two years. And although its numbers pale in comparison to last winter's, "Temptation Island" (6.82 million, 3.7/8) they improved Fox's position in the night's p.m. hour.
Fox looked strong on Friday, as "Dark Angel" finished in a tie with NBC's "Providence" for the 18-49 lead at 8 (preliminary 3.5/12) and dominated in all male demos. That led into an impressive repeat score for new drama "24" (preliminary 3.4/10), which placed a sold second to NBC's "Dateline" (preliminary 3.7/11) and won among men.
On Tuesday, "24" bowed to an unimpressive 5.4/13 18-49 score, so the additional tune-in on Friday bodes well for the drama. Fox plans on repeating this week's original episode of "24" on Friday as well -- a night where it faces considerably less competition, especially for its target male demo.
ABC's new Friday newsmagazine "America.01" (preliminary 6.4 million, 1.6/5) may not last another week after falling from its anemic debut scores of a week earlier and slipping to the network's lowest 18-49 score in the hour this season.